Almost 1,000 Acres Permanently Protected in the Gunnison Valley

The Trust for Public Land, the US Forest Service, the Crested Butte Land Trust (Land Trust), and the Valley Housing Fund today announced the final chapter of a decade-long effort in the permanent protection of nearly 1,000 acres of land in the Gunnison Valley. This multi-year endeavor culminated with the exchange of land between the Trust for Public Land, the Crested Butte Land Trust and the Forest Service permanently protecting the eastern half of Long Lake, a beloved community asset, and seeing a key inholding in the Gunnison National Forest northeast of Gunnison added to the forest.

“The closing of this highly unique land exchange provides the Valley Housing Fund with critically needed funding for future collaborative affordable housing projects.  We sincerely thank our exchange partners for turning this ambitious idea into a reality.  This was the Land Trust’s largest fund raising effort and they succeeded!  Thanks to all who donated to this incredible effort!” – Jim Starr, Chair, the Valley Housing Fund.

Through a generous donation of approximately 960 acres of land known as Fossil Ridge to the Trust for Public Land, longtime Gunnison Valley residents Butch and Judy Clark, set in motion this ambitious project. When the Clark’s donated the land in 2010, they stipulated that all proceeds from the sale of the land will be given to the Valley Housing Fund for affordable housing projects. In exchange for transferring the 120-acre property on Long Lake to the Land Trust, the Forest Service will receive two inholdings in the Gunnison National Forest; one 15-acre parcel from the Land Trust, adjacent to Copley Lake near Irwin and the remaining 613 acres of the land donated to the Trust for Public Land by the Clarks. Following a successful fundraising campaign from the Crested Butte Land Trust, the completion of this project will also generate over $2.6 million for the Valley Housing Fund for affordable housing projects in Gunnison County.

Through extensive collaboration and land exchanges, this sought-after public space has been conserved in the rapidly growing Gunnison Basin. Now that Long Lake is locally protected, the Land Trust will collaboratively manage access to Long Lake with the neighboring Allen Ranch to provide sustainable recreation opportunities while protecting wildlife habitat and key agricultural corridors.

This project is a unique opportunity that benefits the community in multiple ways. The exchange improves access to the public lands of the Gunnison National Forest, provides local and responsive stewardship of Long Lake, and generates significant funding for affordable housing in the Gunnison Valley.

“This land deal will provide indelible protections to landscapes important to all of us while also addressing a key community challenge,” said Matt McCombs Gunnison Ranger for the U.S. Forest Service.  “The innovative generosity and forethought that kickstarted this effort combined with the plucky fundraising that closed it out is a reflection of the remarkable land ethic native to the Gunnison valley and I’m honored the U.S. Forest Service could play a part in it seeing it through.”  

“The Crested Butte Land Trust is thrilled to see this innovative community land protection project through to completion,” said Noel Durant Executive Director of the Crested Butte Land Trust. “The Gunnison Valley’s core values of open space protection and community investment both win with this project. The Land Trust is thankful for the diverse partnerships and philanthropic support that made this land exchange a success.”

“It is very gratifying to play a role in this rare win-win-win conservation project,” said Patrick Gardner, Project Manager, The Trust for Public Land.  “In addition to building on our two decades of work in the Gunnison Valley, we are proud to have collaborated so closely with the Crested Butte Land Trust, the US Forest Service, and the Valley Housing Fund to generate tangible, lasting community recreation and affordable housing benefits.”

The first land exchange took place in 2014 when approximately 330 of the 960 acres of the Clark’s donated land was used as part of a land exchange with the US Forest Service and the Homestake Mining Company to help assist in remediation efforts around the Pitch Mine in Saguache County.



About The Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit


About Crested Butte Land Trust

Crested Butte Land Trust forever protects and stewards open lands for vistas, wildlife, recreation, and ranching, contributing to the preservation of Gunnison County’s unique heritage and quality of life. To learn more and support our work protecting Gunnison Valley open space, visit